Saturday, August 20, 2011

Banana Cream Pie

Let me start off by saying that I am not a big fan of pie. At all. Don't ask me why, I'm just not. So having said that, it's no surprise that this is my first time making banana cream pie. Normally, I wouldn't have even thought of making a pie, but it was my dad's birthday and this is one of his favorite desserts so I thought "why not?" Now, I love him and all, but serving him anything I make is probably one of the most nerve-wracking things for me to do. Even if he doesn't say anything, I can't help but feel that way. As you're reading this, you probably think I'm just being weird and overly paranoid, but I have reason to be, honestly!

Before my parents got married, my dad worked as a chef here in California, in Arizona and in Puerto Rico. But once my parents settled down and started our family, my dad changed careers in order to avoid the long hours and be able to spend time with us. So obviously, growing up, I was surrounded by good food all the time (if you've read my "About Me" page, you'll also know that my grandma was quite the cook as well). My grandpa though, my dad's father, was probably one of his biggest fans as my grandpa used to brag to all his friends about how well his son could cook. He would say something like, "you haven't had eggs until you've had the eggs my son can make." So, now can you see why I'm so intimidated by my dad when it comes to making food for him?

Anyway, making this for the first time wasn't too bad. It came out sweeter than I had intended (I've adjusted the recipe accordingly) and my crust wasn't exactly the definition of crumbly goodness but that's what I love about baking! Figuring out the ingredients and what amounts and whatnot because once you find the perfect combination, you get that awesome blow-your-own-mind-and-tastebuds feeling. Or is that just me?

P.S. August 27th is Banana Lovers Day!

The Ingredients:
For the crust:
-1 1/2 cups graham crackers, crushed
-1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/3 cup flour
-1/4 tsp salt
-2 cups milk
-3 egg yolks, beaten
-2 tbsp unsalted butter
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 to 4 bananas (depending on the size of your pie and how much you want), sliced
For the whipped cream:
-1 1/2 cup heavy cream
-1/4 cup powder sugar, or to taste, sifted

The Directions:
1. Combine all the ingredients in the crust and until all the crumbs are coated and start clumping together.
2. Turn out into your pie tin and use your hands to push the crust down and up the sides. Set aside.
3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, salt and milk and heat until a gentle boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
4. While whisking, add half the yolks and mix until combined, then add the remaining. Put the saucepan back on the heat and cook for an additional 2 minutes, while constantly stirring. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla and stir until smooth. Set aside to allow to cool.
5. Line the crust with the sliced bananas and then pour the pudding mixture over the top. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes then allow to cool before chilling in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
6. Whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Then slowly add in the powdered sugar. Top the pie with the whipped cream.
7. Consume and enjoy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

August's Cupcake Of The Month: S'mores

Happy early National S'mores Day! Yup, you read right. There's a National S'mores Day and it falls on August 10th.

To celebrate this classic campfire treat, these cupcakes were made with graham cracker crumbs, filled with rich chocolate ganache and then topped with a marshmallow-type frosting. And because I wanted to make the cake even more graham cracker-y, I substituted some of the sugar with honey as well. I'm very happy with the results, even though my cake didn't come out tasting exactly like the crackers. But that was mostly due to my laziness. My house already had a box of graham crackers but they had a dusting of cinnamon so instead of going out and purchasing a new box of crackers that I knew I probably won't eat, I used what I had on hand instead. My friends told me the flavor of the cake almost resembled carrot cake, but it still went well with the melted chocolate filling and fluffy marshmallow frosting.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any process pictures for this recipe either. I recently got a new camera and it's one of those big fancy ones and, frankly, it just takes too much time for me to set everything up all pretty like. Especially when I have things that are time sensitive. I know, I know, excuses. But everything in this recipe is pretty straightforward. There aren't any steps that are advanced nor things that I haven't done before, just a lot of making sure things don't burn.

So anyway, make these cupcakes and invite your friends over to celebrate National S'mores Day! Or save all the cupcakes for yourself and let your friends enjoy the treat the old fashioned way instead. I won't tell.
The Ingredients (makes 1 dozen):
For the cupcakes:
-1 cup graham cracker crumbs
-1/2 cup flour
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/3 cup butter
-1/4 cup honey
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 eggs
-1/3 cup milk
For the filling:
-3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
-1/4 cup heavy cream
For the frosting:
-3 egg whites
-1/2 cup sugar
-torch (optional)

The Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line your muffin/cupcake pan.
2. Combine the cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
3. Cream the butter, honey and sugar. Mix in the vanilla then add the eggs one at a time.
4. Add 1/3 of the dry mixture to the wet, then 1/2 of the milk, another 1/3 of the dry, etc. until you run out of both. Mix and scrape between each addition!
5. Fill cups and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Rotate pans halfway through baking to ensure even baking. Allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.
6. While cupcakes are cooling, melt the chocolate chips and heavy cream together in a double boiler.
7. Using a paring knife or a melon baller, cut/scoop out the centers of the cupcakes and fill with the chocolate filling.
8. Beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form.
9. Frost the cupcakes and slightly toast the top. You can use a torch if you have one or you can set the cupcakes under the broiler for a few minutes. If you're using the oven, make sure you watch it!
10. Consume and enjoy!